Cricket: Blair adds weight to MCC complaints

THE Prime Minister has criticised the vote last week which saw the Marylebone Cricket Club keep the door slammed firmly shut on women as members.

Tony Blair's views are spelled out in his responses to "a handful of letters" he has received from critics of the decision. His reply read: "I am obviously aware of the decision that was made. I am not a member of the MCC. Had I been I would have voted to admit women and can see no good reason why that decision was not taken."

The cricket club's vote produced a majority in favour of women as members - but not the two-thirds majority which its committee had decreed was necessary for a change to the rules. Mr Blair's response continued: "It strikes me that, in this day and age, such a decision does not reflect well on the MCC or anybody else."

His comments add to the weight of opinion building up for a re-think by the club. The Sports Minister, Tony Banks, warned on the day the voting figures were made public that the MCC could expect no lottery funds for development until it changed its stance.

The former Prime Minister, John Major, said yesterday that he, as a member of the MCC, had voted to admit women. He told BBC TV's Breakfast With Frost: "I think it's archaic that they don't. It was a majority for change but it wasn't a big enough majority to pass the threshold their rules state.

"No, I don't think the present system is sustainable. I hope the committee will be able to bring forward another vote as soon as possible and that threshold will be reached," Major added. "I don't see any justification for the present situation."